ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Anthony Dutrow saddles High Opinion in hopes of turning the tables on five-time race winner Chad Brown in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Noble Damsel for fillies and mares going one mile over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.
Woodford Racing’s and Team D’s High Opinion broke her maiden last October at Belmont at odds of 97-1 before finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Winter Memories on November 15 over good turf at Aqueduct Racetrack in her first start against winners.
Only off the board once in five starts since then, the 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid put together a successful summer campaign at Saratoga Race Course with an allowance victory on July 31 ahead of a nose defeat last out to last year’s Noble Damsel winner, Viadera, in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa.
Ridden by Luis Saez in the 1 1/16-mile Ballston Spa, High Opinion saved ground in fifth behind an honest pace set by Tamahere, who she will face again in the Noble Damsel. Saez asked the filly for more at the quarter pole and High Opinion answered, making a strong bid two-wide around the turn before tucking back in to the rail for one last try at new leader Viadera. Though she came up just shy of securing her first graded stakes victory, Dutrow said he was thrilled with his filly’s effort.
“I was so happy that she was able to run so well against that competition,” Dutrow said of the dark bay filly’s gusty performance. “People ask if I’m disappointed she lost the race. Yeah, I would have rather won the race than lost, but it was satisfying to see her race that well against those quality horses.”
Since her Ballston Spa effort, High Opinion has posted a series of works over Belmont’s inner turf, most recently breezing a bullet four furlongs in 47.82 seconds Sunday.
Dutrow said he is confident the dark bay filly has carried her Saratoga form to Belmont.
“She was very good in her workout,” Dutrow said Sunday morning. “She was training fantastic at Saratoga and I believe I’m seeing very close to the same filly at Belmont this fall as I did this summer at Saratoga. I think a mile is very good for her, especially at Belmont. She loves that one turn there, so I’m feeling very good about her here.”
If High Opinion crosses the finish line first, it will be the first time a trainer other than Brown visits the winner circle to claim the Noble Damsel trophy in five years. Dutrow said he welcomes the challenge, hoping to play spoiler to Brown’s attempt at a record sixth win in the stakes.
“You bet I want to turn the tables on Chad,” Dutrow said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t want to trade places with anybody. I’m very happy and confident that our filly will give us a great effort.”
Saez gets the return call aboard High Opinion from post 3.
Brown, who is tied with Christophe Clement for most Noble Damsel scores, has won the event previously with Mrs McDougal , Off Limits , Uni , Significant Form  and Viadera .
He will have two chances to earn another Noble Damsel victory with Swift Thoroughbreds, Madaket Stables, and Wonder Stable’s graded stakes winner Tamahere, and John and Tanya Gunther’s recent allowance winner, Love and Thunder.
Winner of the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont last year, Tamahere earned a Grade 1 placing in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in her first start of 2021.
Fourth behind Viadera and High Opinion in the Ballston Spa, she dominated in her next outing, scoring the listed Violet over yielding turf at Monmouth Park by 7 ¼ lengths on September 25.
A wire-to-wire winner in the Violet, Brown said being the one to catch is what works best for the 4-year-old daughter of Wootton Bassett.
“She’s training well,” Brown said following the filly’s five-furlong breeze in 1:02.11 over Belmont’s inner turf course Saturday. “Letting her run freely on the front seems to be what she wants to do.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride from post 10.
Love and Thunder enters the Noble Damsel off an October 1 allowance victory going seven furlongs over firm turf at Belmont after being the bridesmaid in each of her four starts since moving stateside from England in April.
Runner-up to High Opinion in a July 31 allowance at Saratoga, Love and Thunder is seeking her first graded victory and returns to stakes company for the first time since a pair of off-the-board Group 3 efforts in England last year.
“She’s knocked on the door in a lot of these races, so it was nice to see her punch through with a solid victory,” Brown’s assistant Dan Stupp said of the filly’s first American victory. “She’s another one that’s going the right way.”
Love and Thunder will break from post 6 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Completing the field are stakes-placed Risky Mischief [post 9, Dylan Davis]; four-time winner Flower Point [post 2, Jose Lezcano]; last-out winner In a Hurry [post 1, Javier Castellano]; dual stakes winner Shifty She [post 5, Edwin Gonzalez]; Irish-bred Marlborough Road [post 7, Benjamin Hernandez]; and multiple graded stakes placed Platinum Paynter [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche].
Truth Hurts is entered for the main track only.
The Noble Damsel is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s 10-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $400,000 Hill Prince for sophomores going nine furlongs over the inner turf course in Race 9. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
Originally run as the Lexiable Stakes, the Noble Damsel is named for the daughter of Vaguely Noble who won Belmont’s Grade 3 New York Handicap in 1982. Trained by Michael Kay, Noble Damsel was a four-time winner at Belmont and earned six other graded stakes placings in her four seasons of racing.
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Belmont Park Press Release
Photo: High Opinion, (NYRA Photo)